Increasing accuracy of field-scale studies to investigate plant uptake and soil dissipation of pharmaceuticals†
Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) can enter agricultural fields through wastewater irrigation, biosolid amendments, or urine fertilization. Numerous studies have assessed the risk of PPCP contamination, however there are no standardized methodologies for sample treatment, making the interpretation of results challenging. Various time periods between sampling and analysis have been reported (shipping, storage, etc.), but literature is lacking in the evaluation of PPCP degradation amidst this process. This study assessed the stability of 20 pharmaceuticals (200 μg L−1) in soil and crops stored at −40 °C for 7, 30, and 310 days. After 310 days, caffeine, meprobamate, trimethoprim, primidone, carbamazepine, anhydro-erythromycin and dilantin were found to be stable (≥75% recovery) in all matrices. On the other hand, acetaminophen, amitriptyline, bupropion, lamotrigine, sulfamethoxazole, naproxen, ibuprofen, and paroxetine were unstable after 30 days in at least one of the matrices investigated. Due to variations in analyte stability, fortification with isotopically-labelled surrogates at the point of sample collection was evaluated in comparison to fortification after shipment and storage, immediately prior to extraction. Chromatographic peak areas of stable analytes were found to be reproducible (±15%) in field-fortified samples, indicating that no additional error occurred during sample handling under field conditions despite having a less controlled environment. Unstable analytes revealed notable differences in peak areas between fortification times, suggesting that fortification immediately after sample collection is crucial to account for analyte losses during shipping and storage, resulting in accurate quantification of PPCPs.